Despite prolific reports about thousands of citizens and activists gathering in downtown Cairo and 13 other governorates on Friday to protest against the recent maritime demarcation of the Red Sea islands, a remarkable media blackout was implemented across state-owned and privately-owned media outlets, according to Democracy Index.
Protests began following Friday prayers in different regions in Cairo and Giza under the name “the day of land and honour”.
Protesters decried the Red Sea islands Tiran and Sanafir’s transfer of sovereignty and called for the fall of the government.
Media outlets, especially TV channels, did not cover the protests. Those that did used careful language such as “limited demonstrations”.
State-owned channels broadcast different news stories, away from the scenes in downtown. Egyptian satellite aired a programme related to airports during the protest’s peak when protestors arrived at the Press Syndicate.
Privately-owned channels also lacked transparency. Al-Hayat channel broadcast religious and cooking shows; there was no mention of the protests.
Sada El-Balad showed films, TV series, and light entertainment throughout the day, as did TeN channel.
Al-Nahar channel also ignored the protests across the country until the protestors reached the Press Syndicate. The channel then began to show some scenes of the protest but referred to it as a “limited protest”.
Media expert Yasser Abdul Aziz told Daily News Egypt: “Media coverage of Friday protests was unprofessional. This was apparent in the state- and privately-owned channels’ [lack of] coverage of the events. This endorsement of ignorance will push the Egyptian audience to search for alternative outlets that may publish unreliable news.”
The absence of objectivity and ethics in media is a disaster that will force Egyptians to resort to media outlets “that work to destroy Egypt”, Yasser said.
Egyptian media, whether private- or state-owned, suffers from political and security pressures that control its content, the expert said.
Regarding an emerging dependence on social media sources for news, Yasser said that social media played important role in reporting the events of Friday’s protests as well as being the first source of information about the protests’ status.
Journalists can utilise social media outlets but only if the same standards of accuracy are applied by confirming the source, and the time and place of the photo or the reported information.
Heavily armed police forces were deployed to Tahrir Square and prevented reporters from taking photos. Central Security Forces blocked Abdel Khaleq Tharwat Street where the Press Syndicate is located.
Reports suggest that no single political affiliation dominated the protests, with both Islamist and secular entities reported to have participated.